Making the Creative Process Visible

Ways in which ideas develop: tell us your thoughts

In Uncategorized on October 26, 2010 at 5:40 pm

MA Ceramics 2013 … and we begin again:

 “I tell you that I have a long way to go before I am – where one begins… You are so young, so before all beginning, and I want to beg you, as much as I can… to be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and to try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.  Resolve always to be a beginning – to be a beginner!”

Translation by John J L Mood from Rainer Maria Rilke: On Love and Other Difficulties

Sept 2013:

Can the activity of creative thinking be likened to botany, to the growth of roots or leaves seeking light or are we at its mercy awaiting a muse to hit? Perhaps the very activity we take for granted can be nurtured, harnessed by finding the most conducive position by which to receive light, by cutting back dead wood or tethering our branches to contort in balletic configurations … the ideas arise from us, how much are they shaped by their journey to the surface?

Consider the passage below. The text is a discussion into the ‘rhizome’; an attempt to create an ‘image’ of ways in which thought is processed. Although wordy – I could have made the section shorter- it offers us something tangible to work with, a way to concretely explore how we might begin the activity of creative endeavor and harness possibilities in the development of art:

Let us summarize the principal characteristics of a rhizome: unlike trees or their roots, the rhizome connects any point to any other point, and its traits are not necessarily linked to traits of the same nature; it brings into play very different regimes of signs, and even nonsign states. The rhizome is reducible neither to the one nor the multiple. … It is composed not of units but of dimensions, or rather directions in motion. It has neither beginning nor end, but always a middle (milieu) from which it grows and which it overspills. … When a multiplicity of this kind changes dimension, it necessarily changes in nature as well, undergoes a metamorphosis. Unlike a structure, which is defined by a set of points and positions … the rhizome is made only of lines: lines of segmentarity and stratification as its dimensions, and the line of flight or deterritorialization as the maximum dimension after which the multiplicity undergoes metamorphosis, changes in nature …Unlike the tree, the rhizome is not the object of reproduction…The rhizome operates by variation, expansion, conquest, capture, offshoots … the rhizome pertains to a map that must be produced, constructed, a map that is always detachable, connectable, reversible, modifiable, and has multiple entryways and exits and its own lines of flight.”

Please attempt to answer the following questions, can you define yourselves as creative thinkers?

  • Where do you look for inspiration How do you gather and record inspiration?
  • How significant are the conditions of your surroundings to your ability to work effectively?
  • What are the basic constituents you need in life over the course of this MA to function in a creative energised and focussed manner.
  • Are you aware of how differently you think or process ideas in different places or in response to different stimulus? Can you describe these different modes of thought?
  • As you make, what are your concentration levels; do you dip in and out of focus at regular intervals, work in sweeps gaining greater depth of knowledge with each attempt etc
  • Can the differences in these mind-sets be used more effectively in your creative practice?

HEA Subject Centre Creative Learning and Teaching Seminar: The National Glass Centre Sunderland, November 2010
In 2003 the National Centre for Ceramics, Wales began making films documenting the development of ideas throughout the course of their Masters programme. The films proved a great learning and teaching resource but, we felt they contained far more then simple illustrations of the course. Across eleven examples of practice we were certain could be found tendencies and patterns in creative thinking. The films were created again in 2009 with the aid of HEA funding (Higher Education Academy) only this time key themes arising from the students accounts are clearly identified in text alongside their presentation. These films are currently accessible via VIMEO and presented as part of a tool box of ways in which ideas can be developed on the National Centre for Ceramics, Wales website: The films now form the stimulus for new debate, new ideas arising from their articulation of this often hidden process.
The original films were recently placed in the top three Open Access Jorum educational resources 2010. We presented the resources and received our award at the prestigious ALT conference 2010:

Using Video as a Research Tool

In Uncategorized on October 10, 2012 at 7:19 pm

Whether slow or quick, moving or still, the camera captures the multiple facets of a glance and the anxieties of the creative mouth and lips of so many artists and crafts workers that we dare not glimpse alone. Poetically modest, sometimes audacious and violent, animated images can sometimes help us to grasp the unfathomable dimensions of creation“, wrote Loul Combres, Artistic Director, in the editorial for the Ceramic and Glass Film Festival’s 10th anniversary.

Students were asked to consider what approaches they used at the beginning of a body of work. In that spirit, they were asked to be aware of and experiment with various practical methods to help their creative thinking and its communication. An important part of this was to carry out some basic video work.


In pairs using your standard digital camera’s video setting (or phone…etc) take no more than one minutes footage of either (a) a piece of artwork you are going to write about or (b) an aspect of your practice which you are currently exploring. You can interpret ‘footage’ as broadly as you like. Then write up to 250 words describing the process of recording, the experience of viewing it or both.

Remember to think of the entire exercise, the equipment, the videoing process, looking through the camera, working in pairs, how you feel when recording and after, talking on camera, the environment you are recording in…etc. Video is unique because it encompasses sound and moving-images remember this when you are recording and reflecting. Once you start to examine how video can aid your creative approaches you might find there is a lot to talk about!

Unfortunately technology differs from camera to camera so to save time please have your clips either loaded onto your memory sticks in WMV or MOV format. Can you also copy ALL the clips onto one memory stick, this will save time reloading etc.

Video as a Research Tool

Video as a Research Tool

Dos and Don’ts

Don’t: get caught up on technicalities: this is a practical exercise so you can experience first hand some of the issues involved in videoing aspects of your practice.

Do: Make it specific to you and your interests.

Do: Think about the ways filming is different from other methods, if at all.

Do: Reflect upon the entire process of filming from the start to viewing the final footage this should be done immediately.

Don’t: worry to much about ‘quality’ .

I am very much looking forward to seeing what each of you come up with and discussing your results.

MA Field Study Trip: Drawing to Explore a Context

In Uncategorized on November 8, 2010 at 10:08 am

One of the first things students are asked to consider on the MA Ceramics programme is how they first encounter a environment – their studio space, the university, the city and how they might document that experience. This year we went into Cardiff city to documented our experience of the environment from the perspective of its dominant visual traits, its sounds and activities.  The following film documents the experience, not the artwork, but the observations of the students. In this case the absence of individual responses causes you to listen and observe the cityscape from their point of view.

In 2010 we went to Nash Point, Cardiff, Wales, a site of natural beauty and often challenging climate, particularly in Autumn and Winter. Being at the edge of land and physically exposed to high wind and cold temperatures, any exploration of this landscape necessarily involves a consideration of the body, your own physicality as set against the properties of this terrain.

Students were asked to respond to the environment through drawing. The following film, played at the ‘Beginning Approaches’ exhibition, begins to demonstrate certain connections in the ways in which they evidenced their response including the simplification of information and an exploration of their physical / sensory response to surroundings. The question must be raised however, would their exploration of another context demonstrate the same common themes in their creative thinking, particularly one that did not so overtly make them aware of their own bodies?